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Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 06:00 AM PDT

Dawn Chorus: Owl be seeing you soon

by lineatus

For some reason, they've ended up as cute fluffy things in popular culture (thanks Etsy and Anthropologie!)
ghow fledgling_2982

And okay, they are kind of cute and fluffy sometimes.  But to anyone who is actually cute and fluffy, these eyes mean trouble.

ghow_4749 eyes

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Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 06:00 AM PDT

Dawn Chorus: Headbangers

by lineatus

Hellz Yeah!  They rock my world.


What can I say?  I just plain love woodpeckers.  They're fascinating to watch, and just plain good looking birds.  They don't always choose to reveal themselves, clinging to the highest treetops, but sometimes they'll get front and center at a feeder or an eye-level branch.

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It was the first weekend in June, and Yosemite beckoned.  Last November, when we'd signed up for the class, the winter rains were late but we didn't yet know they'd be all but non-existent.  (Not that it would have deterred us.)  So what would await us this time?

Half Dome never disappoints.  A high-country thunderstorm had just cleared off and gave a nice dramatic view from the bridge near our campground.  Later that evening, we were back in the same spot to watch bats.

Birds, thankfully.  And cliffs and waterfalls and flowers and bugs and bats and stuff.

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Sun Jun 08, 2014 at 06:00 AM PDT

Dawn Chorus: Print Edition

by lineatus

Did I ever tell you about my book?  

Okay, not exactly mine.  It's Peter Pyle's "Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part 2".  But I did most of the illustrations and I have to say, it was a pretty cool experience.

The first step in a five-year project - Common Loon

If you're a regular Dawn Chorus reader, you know I'm a serious plumage geek. That's how I got involved in the project, and the project definitely reinforced the geekitude.  Going through the process was a real education.

I'm currently in Yosemite, so you won't see much of me today.  This is a repeat from way back in 2008 when the book first came out.  See you live next week, hopefully with lots of fun pix to share from this trip.
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Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 06:00 AM PDT

Dawn Chorus: Nemesis

by lineatus

It might as well be the Nessie, for all you can make of it.  And it has been a monster of sorts for years.  But there it is - proof of the existence of the legendary...


Okay, maybe not totally legendary.  But my 15+ years of seeking finally resulted in a sighting, if not a recognizable photo. Yea!

If you've spent any time birding seriously, you almost certainly have a nemesis.  It usually isn't super rare - it's understandable if you miss out on a one-day wonder, and one miss does not a nemesis make.  It takes at least a double-dip (or triple-dip or dip-times-20) to make a nemesis.  Lots of people do see the bird, but not you.  Such a bird for me was the Black Duck - I've been looking for them for at least 15 years now every time I visited family back east.  Casually at first, but increasingly obsessing with each additional trip and miss.  (Pretty odd to have Falcated Duck and Baikal Teal on my waterfowl list before seeing a Black Duck.)

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Writer and environmentalist Peter Matthiessen died today at the age of 86; according to this story, he had been ill with leukemia. He was a wonderful writer and a compelling speaker; a strong voice for the preservation of the natural world, for justice and human rights.  

Few authors could claim such a wide range of achievements. Matthiessen helped found The Paris Review, one of the most influential literary magazines, and won National Book Awards for "The Snow Leopard," his spiritual account of the Himalayas, and for the novel "Shadow Country." A leading environmentalist and wilderness writer, he embraced the best and worst that nature could bring him, whether trekking across the Himalayas, parrying sharks in Australia or enduring a hurricane in Antarctica.

He also was a longtime liberal who befriended Cesar Chavez and wrote a defense of Indian activist Leonard Peltier, "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse," that led to a highly publicized, and unsuccessful, lawsuit by an FBI agent who claimed Matthiessen had defamed him.

Though I always think of him as an environmental writer first and foremost, he was so much more.  He started the Paris Review with George Plimpton, and wrote some significant fiction as well, including "At Play in the Fields of the Lord".  I feel lucky to have heard him speak several times.  Though he wrote on some weighty topics, he was a lively and entertaining speaker.  
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Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 06:04 AM PDT

Dawn Chorus: Ravens and Crows

by lineatus

Common Ravens, headlands

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Icterids. Personally, I love 'em.  But what the hell kind of name is that?

srsly, wtf?

I started writing about blackbirds, and then I veered into writing about a few of their cousins and pretty soon it was all the icterids, and then I got interested in the origin of the name... and here we are.  Per Wikipedia (which is never wrong as far as I know),

The name, meaning "jaundiced ones" (from the prominent yellow feathers of many species) comes from the Ancient Greek ikteros, through the Latin ictericus. This group includes the New World blackbirds, New World orioles, the Bobolink, meadowlarks, grackles, cowbirds, oropendolas and caciques.
Okay, they say yellow but I know orange when I see it.
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Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 06:00 AM PST

Dawn Chorus: Do Something!

by lineatus

There is a bit of a paradox about volunteering.  You give your time and get no pay, yet so often you get more out of it than you give.

I work full time, so my nights and weekends are precious free time.  Yet I am happy to give up that time for volunteer work; in most years, it averages out to 8 hours worth of volunteer time each and every week.  

pefa asy release
I would do this for free any day.

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Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 06:00 AM PST

Dawn Chorus: Anyone see any birds?

by lineatus

More to the point:  Anyone photograph any birds?

Last week, SF Kossacks had two esteemed out-of-area visitors, which was all the excuse we needed for a birding trip.  One of them (matching mole) was kind enough to provide a wish list back in November, and discussions in the comments added a few more.  A quick glance at the list suggested an obvious place to go - Solano County and Woodbridge Road.  We weren't going to get them all but we had a pretty good chance for everything except Red-throated Loon.  Well, you can't be greedy about these things.

Not a bird, but an interesting sighting at Cosumnes Preserve.

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Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 06:00 AM PST

Dawn Chorus: Not this again...

by lineatus

It’s a mixed bag out there.  You’ve got your yard set up to attract birds – feeders, baths, maybe some native plants and brushpiles.   But as with any open house buffet, you’re likely to get a few guests who don’t behave as well as you’d like.

Adult Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

At best, the others don’t want to hang out with them.   Sometimes they get violent, and occasionally kill and eat the other guests...  really does dampen the mood, ya know?  

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Sun Dec 08, 2013 at 06:00 AM PST

Dawn Chorus: Alien Invasion!!1!

by lineatus

If this was Fox Noise, I could whip up a frenzy describing how our fine, native birds are under siege from alien hordes...  but, nah. Although I might keep with their anti-elitist tone and curse Shakespeare (just this once).

Few things illustrate the law of unintended consequences better than invasive species.

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